The Bosphorus is a narrow, navigable strait between Europe and Asia connecting the Black Sea (Pontus Euxinus) to the Marmara Sea (Propontis).
It is about 31 km / 20 mi long and varies between 1 and 2.5 km / 0.5 and 1.5 mi wide. The narrowest point is 700 m / 2,300 ft between the fortresses of Rumeli and Anadolu. Swift currents make navigation difficult. The average depth is 50 m / 164 ft. In the Bosphorus there are two currents; one on the surface from the Black Sea towards the Marmara Sea and one below the surface in the opposite direction. The Black Sea is 24 cm / 9.5 in higher than the Marmara and this causes the current on the surface. The other current is because of the changes of salt rates in the two seas.

Along both shores are many attractions including ancient ruins, picturesque villages and forested areas. Near the southern end is the Golden Horn, the harbor of Istanbul, one of the most commodious natural harbors in the world. In ancient and medieval times almost all commerce between the Mediterranean and Black seas was routed through the strait. It is still an important artery of international trade. An average number of 38,000 ships pass through the Bosphorus annually.

The name Bosphorus means “ford of the calf” in ancient Greek and is derived from the myth of the maiden Io.


In mythology, Io is seduced by Zeus and changed into a milk-white heifer to protect her from the jealousy of Hera. When Hera asked Zeus for the heifer, Zeus complied and Hera employed the hundred-eyed Argus to guard Io. After Argus was slain by Hermes at the behest of Zeus, Hera tormented Io with a gadfly, driving her from land to land crossing the strait between Asia and Europe and giving its name, Bosphorus.

Galata Kulesi (Tower)

The tower was built by the Genoese colony as part of their town defense fortifications in the 14C. In Genoese sources it was named as Christea Turris (Tower of Christ).

It was altered considerably, particularly by upper parts being added under the Ottomans during the course of the centuries. It was used at different times as a prison and a fire-watch tower. In 1967, the tower was restored and an elevator was added. The present height of the tower is 63 m / 206 ft. Today two top floors serve as a restaurant with folkloric shows. During the daytime it is open to visitors for panoramic views of the region.

Flying Turk

Mankind has always longed to fly like a bird and the first human to try it successfully was an Ottoman Turk.

In the 17C, during the reign of the Ottoman Sultan Murat IV, Hezarfen Ahmet Celebi, a scholar whose first name means “a thousand sciences”, managed to fly by wearing rush-work wings, from the top of the Galata Tower to Uskudar, an Asian settlement opposite and across the Bosphorus. An excited crowd including the sultan watched him achieve this feat.

Sultan Murat admired Hezarfen but he was also afraid that his unusual ability would win him excessive power. The sultan gave him a purse of gold and declared: “This man is one to be feared. He can do anything he wishes. The presence of such men is not auspicious.” Hezarfen was then exiled to Algeria where he died broken hearted far away from home.

Kiz Kulesi (Maiden’s Tower)

One of the most distinctive landmarks in Istanbul. The Kiz Kulesi was originally a 12C Byzantine fortress built on a natural rock. The present structure dates from the 18C and is used as an inspection station by the Navy. There are plans to restore it to become a cafe and restaurant.

Ciragan Sarayi (Ciragan Palace)

This palace was built by Abdulaziz I between 1863 and 1867. This was a period in which all Ottoman sultans used to build their own palaces rather than using those of previous sultans. Unfortunately because of a fire in 1910 this beautiful palace was just a ruin until very recently when it became one of the most exclusive hotels in Istanbul.
Ciragan Sarayi (Ciragan Palace), 1867, Istanbul

Ortakoy Camisi (Ortakoy Mosque)

This mosque is also known as Buyuk Mecidiye Camisi and was built by Abdulmecit in 1853. The architect is Nikogos Balyan.

Beylerbeyi Sarayi (Beylerbeyi Palace)

The Architect Sarkis Balyan constructed the Beylerbeyi Palace between 1861 and 1865 for Abdulaziz. The exterior decoration was adopted from European Neo-Classicism but the interior was completed in the traditional Ottoman style.
This palace was used both as a summer lodge and as a residence for visiting royalty.

Bogaz Koprusu (Bosphorus Bridge)

In 1973, on the 50th anniversary of the Turkish Republic, a suspension bridge similar to the British River Severn Bridge was opened at Istanbul linking the Asian and European shores of the strait.
It is 64 m / 210 ft high with 6 lanes. The total length is1,560 m / 5,117 ft and the distance between two legs is only 1,074 m / 3,523 ft. The construction took 3 years and the cost was 22 million US Dollars.

During its first years pedestrians could walk across the bridge and the elevators inside the legs were open to the public. However, after many suicides it is no longer open to pedestrians.

Kucuksu Kasri (Kucuksu Summer Palace)

A summer palace built by Sultan Abdulmecit in 1856 upon the ruins of an earlier building. The style is Western and the architect is Nikogos Balyan.

Anadolu Hisari (Anatolian Fortress)

This fortress was constructed on the Asian shore by Bayezit I in the late 14C, one century before Turks conquered Constantinople. Rumeli Hisari (Rumeli Fortress)
Sultan Mehmet II made preparations for the siege of Constantinople. He decided to build a fortress on the Bosphorus opposite the Anadolu Hisari in order to cut off the city from its sources of grain on the shores of the Black Sea. The construction was completed in 1452 in less than four months and it served its purposes well. After the conquest, it lost its military importance.

Fatih Sultan Mehmet Koprusu (Sultan Mehmet Bridge)

Due to the heavy traffic in Istanbul, another bridge at the narrowest point on the Bosphorus was constructed between the years 1985 and 1988.
This bridge is also 64 m / 210 ft high, but it has 8 lanes. The total length is 1,510 m / 4,953 ft and the distance between the two legs is only 1,090 m / 3,575 ft. The construction was completed by a Japanese company and the cost was 125 million US Dollars.